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Monday, March 23, 2009

Frankenstein Mobster - A Suspended Animation Review From 2004

Terry Todd was a good cop, in a bad town. Monstro City is home to outcasts and immigrants, and…well, monsters. It is also home to the mob, and a police force that "serves and protects" it's bosses. Todd ran afoul of the system, and the monsters lost one of their few friends, as a result. Now, Todd's daughter, Terri, arrives on the scene. A young detective, sympathetic to the monsters' plight, Terri has a suspicious eye cast her way by the corrupt police force, as she's paired up with her father's old partner. Can she trust him to back her up? All this, and Terri hasn't even found out that her father is not "dead," anymore; at least, not conventionally.

Mark Wheatley's newest creation, Frankenstein Mobster, offers much to today's comics reader. Besides a storyline rich with possibilities, and near certain future twists and turns, there are interesting characters with believable motivations and dialogue. Not to mention Wheatley's beautifully painted artwork, which is a cookie-cutter version of no other style seen in comics. Wheatley's work is truly original in every way, as you've never seen classic scary-movie monsters in the same light.

Making the comic even more interesting is the availability of original Frankenstein Mobster strips and extras at its home site. A password is given in the letters page of each issue that opens up all kinds of additional "goodies," such as sketches and convention photos. A nice gimmick for giving the reader a little more enjoyment for their hard-earned buck.

Frankenstein Mobster is recommended for all but the youngest readers. Find it at your local comic shop (to find THAT, call 1-888-comicbook), or at the Insight Studios web site. Frankenstein Mobster, published by Image Comics, 32 pages, $2.95.

Review by Mark Allen

Fictions #2 - A Suspended Animation Review From 2004

Those tired of the super hero scene should take note.

Would-be burglars have a harrowing encounter with the supernatural. Horror.

A dim look at an Orwellian future brings chills, and a desire to hide under the covers for the next few decades. Science fiction.

Stu Robinson has big ideas...but is he all talk? Slice-of-life.

Three stories, three genres; and not a hint of spandex. There aren't very many anthology comics out there worth a look. Fictions is different. Not perfect by any means, but definitely rife with potential.

From first page to last, I remained interested. Hey, that's saying a LOT for most comics, these days. Intriguing characters and situations, as well as engaging artwork make for a better-than-average comics experience. Now, if only writer Johnny Lowe could decide whether to use profanity, or punctuation-marks as a substitute; of course, I believe the substitute would suffice.

Lowe spins quite a yarn. All three stories spring from his creative imagination. I have to say, there seems to be quite a lot going on, up there.

Artists Seaward Tuthill, Ted Seko, and Ellen Lindner all possess appealing styles, with Tuthill seemingly the most accomplished in the black-and-white medium. His clean lines, superior shading, texture and depth, as well as his ability to keep visibility "clear" in the absence of color lead me to believe he could have a bright future in the comics industry.

Fictions is not recommended for younger readers due to profanity. Those interested in buying should write to: Brass Ring Comics, 1152 W. 24th Street, #1, San Pedro, CA 90731, or email

Fictions #2, published by Brass Ring Comics, 32 pages, $2.50.

Review by Mark Allen

Felix the Cat: House of 1,000 Ha Ha's! - A Suspended Animation Review From 2004

This is not your grandpa's Felix. That edgy cat with a magic bag of tricks began as an animated cartoon in 1923, and then moved to comic books and strips. That Felix appealed to adults and kids.

This cat is for kids.

That doesn't make this Felix bad. If fact, this cat is cool for six-year-old youngsters. Felix the cat and cast act like men, so believable dialog, plot, and setting are thrown out. That 'throwing out' makes Felix fantasy, and Felix fantasy is delightful. Acting like men, the simple, thick-lined art suspends disbelief by a visual internal logic. That visual logic is the simple style of a coloring book.

So what makes Felix cool?

Felix is recommended for pre-literate and young kids for nice art and story and because he is fun.

Felix the Cat: House of 1,000 Ha Ha's!/22 pgs., $2.50, Felix Comics/ various artists and writers/sold at & comics shops.

Review by Michael Vance

Dick Tracy: The Collins Files - A Suspended Animation Review From 2004

Near the end of Chester Gould's career, the creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip began to turn his master-piece over to his art assistant, Rick Fletcher, and novelist Max Allan Collins. The Collins Files is the first in a series that will collect strips originally published between 1978 and 1989.

Collins, who was already known for his Ms. Tree series of crime comic books and his mystery novels, would also write the graphic novel and movie, Road to Perdition. Fletcher passed away during Collins' tenure.

Dick Tracy had long before been stripped of its gritty violence, and even bizarre villains like The Mole, Pruneface and Haf-and-Haf had been visually softened over the years. Collins eventually reintroduced many of the elements that had made the strip famous, and Haf-and-Haf, the children of criminals Flattop and The Brow and Big Boy are cast members in this collection.

Strips had also been reduced in size in newspapers since Tracy's 1931 debut. The simplified art Gould developed for the cast was further simplified by Fletcher and weakens the original impact of the strip. Although more than competent, Fletcher's art seems two-dimensional and visual suspense is often missing.

Despite these limitations, the original and powerful concept behind Dick Tracy, Fletcher's obvious talent as a cartoonist, and Collin's intricate, innovative, and entertaining plots, characterization and dialog, quickly involve a reader in the stylistic, semi-realistic world of Gould's cops and robbers.

In particular, the last story in this volume featuring crime boss Big Boy and hitman The Iceman is suspenseful as well as entertaining. It will be interesting to see if Collins maintained this level of Film Noir tension during the rest of his time on the most popular police series in the history of strips.

Dick Tracy: The Collins Files is highly recommended.

Dick Tracy: The Collins Files #1/$17.95 and 163 pgs. from Checker Book/Art by Rick Fletcher; words by Max Allan Collins/available at and comics book stores.

Review by Michael Vance